The BFG by Roald Dahl:A Book Review

download

Oompa-loompa, everlasting gobstopper, snozzberry, whangdoodles, hornswogglers, snozzwangers, vermicious knids, scrumdiddlyyumptious, eggdicator: These are some of the examples of the wonderful words  in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that Google helped me jog my memory about, my first experience in  discovering Roald Dahl’s leanings for inventing new nonsensical words. At that time, I had to turn to a stack of different dictionaries in my house , or to the internet as the last straw to grasp their meanings. I wonder if native speakers who have read it have the same cognitive trepidation.

 The BFG , short for The Best Friendly Giant , is  another one  I was boggled at.  It is definitely   more rabid than the former one in that I almost wanted to toss it up in the air. It is riddled with many, many  nonsensical  words Dahl coined himself. My student and I since   it was part of our reading class called it TGL short for The Giant Language. Thus, the biggest challenge for us was how to understand it   because we are not native speakers . Our knowledge of English   vocabulary is limited.  In this case, we just try to guess with the context  clues  hidden  not anything but near the other sentences,  or as usual  with  my  comrade in time of   nasal hemorrhage  or  with a dictionary app  installed in our android phones.  However, most of the time, we just skipped them , for in doing so was a waste of time.

For  the newbie, to understand what I have been blabbering about, try to guess the meanings of the  following words  and  sentences.

Buckswashling

“Upgoing bubbles is a catasterous disastrophe!”

“Delumptious fizzy frobscottle…”

Gruncious

Hopscotchy

Propsposterous

Rotsome

Sqiubbling

“I cannot be squibbling the whole gropefluncking dream on a titchy bit of paper.”

You will be coming to an ucky-mucky end if any of them should ever be getting his gogglers upon you.”

“How whoopsey-splunkers! How absolutely squiffling! l is all of a stutter.”

To  the  readers who have read it, you may be pleasantly  squinting at the words  until now.  For me,  my favorite words  that my student and I made fun of were “ I watch telly telly bumkin box”, and “ scrumdiddylicious” which was also spoken in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. ^^

If you are such a logophile, maniac for  patting  down  all the words  in the book, you could  serve as  an interpreter  for  TGL.

Apparently, the   nonsensical words are the mainspring of having a hard time enjoying it to bits as to what I went through in Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Such literary device   may deaden or spice up   the excitement of the story depending on the   taste of the reader. In a metaphorical situation, I was like a stranger, lost in a lost world, fear-stricken of the thought that I would not be able to get back to where I came from because of the strange things, needless to say TGL , I had to be inured to until I was part of this “disgusterous, sickable, and rotsome” world of the giants.  But the truth is I don’t want to enter this story anymore, especially during witching hour: I am scared to have met the giants and talked to them in their language anymore; it would just put me in a nose bleeding and bone-crunching position.

Despite that the world I entered is creepily “disgusterous”, I found it amusing because of The BFG. He is such a naive but amusing character. I was like Sophia, the main character , enjoying his company because of  his funny hobbies and stories. I would hate but try eating his favorite food “snozzcumbers” which taste is beyond recognition. I would for sure enjoy his ejaculatory whizzpopper, a drink resembling a soda drink, but equivalent to farting reaction in our world.  I would not get tired of his thousand jars of dream collections. I would be fascinated by his elongated ears which have the ability to listen to sounds  a million times  far  away, and could serve as a hideout for  a small human bean  from human-bean eaters. Indeed, The BFG is not a giant everyone should be intimated by.

If I survived the world of the giants in that I was neither crunched nor gorged on , I would not just bear in mind the memories I spent with the BFG but also his sophisticated character. You might not realize that the BFG   has a literary symbol. For me, he is the anathema of the desire to change the old ways. Little did I realize that Dahl may have suggested that his story is about civilization and barbarism.Only the BFG has the willingness to be weaned on the currently revolutionary life , keeping behind the   old ways of the other giants. He exerts a lot of effort to educate himself by reading books, especially Charles Dickens’ works. Likewise, he does not want to eat human beans because of his “civilized conscience.” As a matter of fact, the story  indicates  that we can learn break our  uncivilized habits  like what happened to The BFG and other giants who have eventually been taught to lead the life civilized  people do. Now, this could be a question for a social science scholar: Is civilization a learned development?

The BFG is another book to reduce me to awe for Dahl’s mastery in storytelling although I am now at the stage of cognitive development when everything is no longer beyond a child’s understanding. Rather, I can cringe at the juvenile and puerile stories because such things can be deduced with logical explanations. However, I reckoned that we are dictated by society when we should act our age. In other words, there is no limitation to what books a reader should   read.  Thus, Roald Dahl is now my favorite children book writer. 🙂

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it.)

 

 

Pincher Martin by William Golding: A Book Review

pinchmartin

I included British writer William Golding in my favorite –writer list on Goodreads , along with one of America’s best novelists Toni Morrison andE. L. Doctorow , Dutch writer Ian McEwan, famous American educator Frank McCourt, one of America’s best essayists Richard Rodriguez ,one of the best Black American revolutionary writers Richard Wright, atheists Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens , and Filipino children writer Genaro Gojo Cruz.

His classic novel Lord of the Flies demonized me to ostentatiously display him up there. I don’t know how I ended up considering him as one of them. I just remember that the novel ‘s main characters broke my heart. I won’t forget Ralph, the boy who led the group but was outplayed and outwitted by the domineering Jack along with his adherents; Piggy, Ralph’s loyalist, the hero of the story who died of his principle for pacifism and unity; and Simon, the boy who was mistaken for a monster and eventually killed by Jack’s group. But I came to understand that I did not make a mistake after discovering that there is a deeper way of how to understand it in the context of politics. Thus, there is a reason why William Golding deserves to be celebrated as one of the best writers in the world of literature, and Pincher Martin is another testimony to this claim.

Pincher Martin bears little resemblance to his immortal and classic Lord of the Flies. Both novels bear on how to survive being a castaway on a far-off island. The only differences are that the former one focuses on one character while the latter one is on a group of children, young students in effect. Besides, the deeper lowdown on the former one on the one hand is on existentialism, individualism, objectivism- steeped in philosophical and psychological questions. The latter one, on the other hand, is on politics aptly portrayed by young characters.

Pincher Martin is a just a taciturn novel for me since it involves one character, apart from the other ones flashed back in the character’s memory. Reading it is like being a castaway, silent, putting yourself in his shoes, musing over the possible approaches to surviving the island. At first, I would feel the trauma and confusion about ending up in that uncivilized place until I woke up to the grim reality. However, as time passed by, I would come to the end of my wits that everything imaginable would fail, so all I would have to do is to beat my head against a stone and realize that the best way to survive is to use my intelligence, education , and training. At the same time, using the three necessary traits to survive, I would suffer from philosophical crisis in that I would doubt my existence on this planet. By the same token, out of physical and mental pains, I would be subject to psychological conditions like mirage or any forms of delusions.

Pincher Martin is another revelation for me that William Golding was such a skilled writer. In this novel, he showed the real quality of a gifted writer that writing a novel not only focuses on the characters’ papers they embody but also on the other perspectives. In this novel, Golding tried to paint another portray of being a castaway. He perfectly described what a castaway could be, being alone on an island. It is not just about how to survive but also how to help oneself get over the possible philosophical realizations one must face since no one is an island. However, Golding’s intention is not as conspicuous as his Lord of the Flies which I thought that I was just reading an adventure. The novel turns out to be deeper than its story. In other words, Pincher Martin, to put it bluntly, is like a brochure handed out by a flight attendant which will give you tips on what the possible things you might experience and do when you are a sole survivor. To make the brochure worth reading, it is inserted with beautiful quotes.

Admittedly, I had a hard time reading it despite that it is said to be lightly written. I guess what the book reviewers are referring to is its narration centering around Pinch Martin’s surviving scenes. But in terms of philosophical realizations, they are not at all. I am sorry. I am not that really smart. I am just a smart ass. Enough said, Joey!

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

The Boys in the Striped Pyjamas by John Doyne: A Book Review

the-boy-in-th-striped-pyjamas

“A speck that became a blob that became a figure that became a boy.”

I had expected that its ending is tragic enough to blink my tears away. I could not even bring myself to turn the next last pages. I would not have cared if I had violated   one of my rules that I should finish a book no matter how disappointing or revolting it turns out to be. Just I could not withstand seeing what is going to happen next and my heart crying over another ending with which I would be overwhelmed, but I did not want to give in. This was it. Why should I back off? Face whatever the next story is.

Its catchy title written  in  striped -pyjamas   book cover is  enchanting  enough for a reader like me to pick it out from among  the other PDFs saved in my phone document. As you know, I am a poor reader. I avail of the free PDFs available on the internet. Somewhow, I enjoyed reading the book because the prose is light, the scenes are engaging despite that they are the keys to the predictable segue, the main character Bruno is the embodiment of my childhood curiosity, and the story is very unique, something I  have never read from the other  fictions. However, although I may not be a full-fledged writer, I may consider myself climbing on the bandwagon of the armchair writers that it is poor-written, one of the shortcomings that may have let down their high standards.

For me, this is just a light book; it is imbued with ponderous prose. It does not have any hefty words your brains have to weigh in on or cerebrally hemorrhagic sentence structures you have to turn over in your mind (as what a grammar Nazi does.) You can concentrate on it no matter how simple the syntax is except for shrinking from the simplicity and shiftlessness of some sentences John Doyne may not have cared about embellishing them more.

Also, you might find yourself deeply engaged in it because Bruno is such a pig-headed wren. His character is the lubricant of the story. His being a pain in the ass soothes the story to become more calmly enthralling. However, there were times that I would trip over some parts only   experienced and critically acclaimed writers have to know what I am trying to drive at.  Don’t get me wrong. I belong to the armchair writers.

In addition, you would not just be a reader but a soothsayer. You could almost   play in your mind the foretaste of the unexpected. I was wondering if it was John Doyne, not his readers, was (not) born yesterday.  In the first place, I had inferred that Bruno will die at the end because his buttoned-up and power monger father will not educate him about the concentration camp Bruno will mistake for a farm. Oh, poor Bruno. His father’s ignorance of a child’s psyche will accidentally put him to death. Lo and behold, I have read such a tragic ending from the other books. (Thinking) … (Walking back and forth)… (Thinking)… Eureka! I’m Not Scared by Italian writer Niccolò Ammaniti must be one of them. So, it’s another meme of the same idea. Could you help me cite some more?

In effect, the concept of the story brushing off all the shortcomings that did not meet the high standards of the armchair writers is supposed to be impressive. I bought some Doyne’s “literary gimmicks” First, Bruno’s “stupid or idiotic “innocence. I admit to cringing at it because I knew that Bruno was not that stupid enough not to understand everything in the story given that he is two years younger than his sister. A reader   ignorant of child psychology may ask this,” Is there such a cognitive condition?”  Second, the deep friendship between the two boys developed at a barbed boundary. It is something new for me. Third, to make the commonly accidental tragedy memorable, the scene is both Bruno and Shmuel are stuck in a line toward the gas chamber. Finally, unbeknownst to Bruno’s family, he will die in the gas chamber and his loss will remain a mystery. So, after reading the book, I sat speechlessly, imagining the chamber   fading away, and I could no longer hear the cries muffled by the gas poured in. Heart-breaking! Indeed, it is a story readers might never forget.

Writers have drops of ideas plopping in their heads, but the big challenge for them is how to creatively put them together with beautiful prose.  By the same token, they have to psychologize the possible reactions of their readers because nowadays readers are smart. They are now being educated by full access to a plethora of information on the internet.  For this reason, John Doyne should have needed more elbow grease to polish the story.  It could  most likely  get more than two stars. Gee! Indeed, I am an armchair writer.

I have just found its movie adaptation on YouTube. I wonder if it is the other way around. 🙂

Rating: 2/ 5 stars ( It’s ok.)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: A Book Review

I admit that reading romantic novels , except pink  ones, is not my cup of tea. I may be such  a consummate misogynist or misandrist, or  I just believe in the Filipino  bromide  , “Walang Forever .” ( laughs)  In fact, I have no any clues about Nicholas Sparks’s best-selling novels yet except their movie adaptions. I do not even include them in my required reading.  Nevertheless, there are two love stories that always remind me of whenever I think of this kind of genre: the classics Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Brontë and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Both  novels are the outcomes of  the writers’  desires  to paint the picture of what was love like in a suppressible generation. But when it comes to modern ones, so far, among the ones I  have read, this Me Before You is the one I would say is the catalyst of my elusive finickiness and  the springboard for  a new genre on my list instead.I did not expect to have read a book that would make a difference to   my reading preference. I hate you Jojo Moyes.

As a matter of fact, I did not find this book romantic as what I had expected. It is not similar to the ones you are giddy about in that you are almost gaga for the  main characters, typical of teenyboppers’  reaction. Oh, my gosh!  I feel like fainting! Instead , the book is  enveloped  in  bipolar atmospheres.  Lou Clark ,on the one hand, the main character is a funny lady who loves wearing weird getups. Will Traynor ,on the other hand, a  quadriplegic man who  emits gloomy ,sombre, and dour responses around him. It is a matter of black and white. Romantic? No. My heart broke for Will. I was just being amused by Lou’s  dramatic but optimistic and humorous dramas.So, it is  as though the love that prevailed is compassion. Furthermore, honestly speaking, I am fully aware of the controversial issue on euthanasia, the desire of a patient to end his/ her  life on account of unbearable  body pains and feeling of uselessness.  I  was subjectively reading it  in light of my pragmatic view. My opinion? Again, it’s  a question of white and black.

Rather, its other themes are  realistically compelling  like Lou’s relationship problem with her boyfriend and family.Anyone out there except me may relate to her  love story. And for those self-proclaimed ” bread-winners ”  financially depended on by their ” poor ” families, Lou Clark be like. Hahaha  Besides, if you are a certified book worm, you will nudge at your chair in excitement because both the main characters discuss  different literary books I have read  such  as  Red Queen , Flannery O’Connor’s stories , to name a few. Oh, it  makes sense after all, indeed.

The themes would be inconsequential if it were not Jojo Moye’s  riveting and  beautiful sentences. She really knows her stuff. The pacing and prose  are natural  without  any smidgens of  conspicuously  patched  drafts that she had gathered for a long time.  That’s why I did not feel bored. I just kept on turning the pages  though as I was watching an  a la Mary-Lennox-and Colin-Craven  scene in the  Secret Garden.

Surprisingly, Jojo Moyes  was able to hold  me in  her unconscious target to  be teetering on the edge of  what we call  ” emotional attachment.” Its ending cracked the carapace  of my tough heart. I blinked my tears away, but I have learned  the same lesson again and again : Life is a choice. If you don’t think so, hang in your drama. Bow.

Trivia:

Jojo Moyes was inspired to write the story on euthanasia based on late American rugby player Daniel James who  took his life at the Dignitas clinic on 12 September 2008.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)

 

 

The Adulterous Woman by Albert Camus: A Book Review

adulterous“ She was waiting, but she didn’t know for what. She was aware only of her solitude, and of the penetrating cold, and of the greater weight in the region of her heart.”

Suddenly I was bothered by the title when I reached the climax of the story. I had expected that the story would center around the scenes that a woman would commit a “crime”, getting into an amorous affair, that she would rat out on her faithful  husband in an abject misery, that there would be a passion-of-crime scene. However, it turned out to be the other way around; the title itself could be understood  in different perspectives. What do you mean by the word “adulterous”? When can you say that a woman is adulterous?

All my dictionary references are in accord with the definition of  adultery  as a sexual affair between a married person with someone who is not his/ her spouse. The word is synonymous with infidelity,unfaithfulness,disloyalty,cuckoldry,extramarital sex-you name it. So,in law,a woman is said to commit adultery when she does so ; a man,concubinage.

On the other hand, when the word inflects into “adulterous”, the word can be  misleading. Since the suffix –ous means having a particular quality, therefore, you can describe someone adulterous that it is the character of that  person to engage in a sex  affair with someone who is not  his/ her spouse. Thus, I found out  that the title has no relevance to the story. I do not find any crime committed by the main character , Janine unless you may call it a prima facie manifestation.

Janine is married but childless to a man who is so preoccupied about his business. Taken along by her husband to an Arabian land on business, she was attracted to an Arabian soldier   who offered her some  lozenges on the bus.  She realized then that despite her mid-life-look age, she is still physically attractive. However, it occurred to her that the man was not interested in her after all  upon meeting him in the market; the man just ignored her. And there was an instance that she was even engulfed   by a group of men when she decided to air out in the middle of the night, leaving her husband asleep.

Therefore, Janine did not have sex with any men, but she had the idea of doing so. Rather, we can put it mildly  that she has committed mental adultery. Besides , could we opine  that Janine is an adulterous woman? The definition of adultery is too broad to conclude that someone like Janine is said to be so unless you define sex as an act, which is different from the idea. Nevertheless, Janine realized her guilt upon   her momentous reflection:

“After a moment…it seemed to her that the sky above her was moving in a sort of slow gyration. In the vast reaches of the dry, cold night, thousands of stars were constantly appearing, and their sparkling icicles, loosened at once, began to slip gradually toward the horizon. Janine could not tear herself away from contemplating those drifting flares. She was turning with them, and the apparently stationary progress little by little identified her with the core of her being, where cold and desire were now vying with each other. Before her the stars were falling one by one and being snuffed out among the stones of the desert, and each time Janine opened a little more to the night. Breathing deeply, she forgot the cold, the dead weight of others, the craziness or stuffiness of life, the long anguish of living and dying. After so many years of mad, aimless fleeing from fear, she had come to a stop at last. At the same time, she seemed to recover her roots and the sap again rose in her body, which had ceased trembling. Her whole belly pressed against the parapet as she strained toward the moving sky; she was merely waiting for her fluttering heart to calm down and establish silence within her. The last stars of the constellations dropped their clusters a little lower on the desert horizon and became still. Then, with unbearable gentleness, the water of night began to fill Janine, drowned the cold, rose gradually from the hidden core of her being and overflowed in wave after wave, rising up even to her mouth full of moans….”

Based on my psychological but hypothetical   observations from the general situation among couples, Janine is looking for the real meaning of happiness or connubial bliss as what a typical wife should be. Her husband is a busy businessman. She does not even have a child to bear. I do not have the slightest idea of what the reasons are since the story does not mention anything. As a matter of fact, it suggests that both do not love each other. May be they just need each other. May be Marcel, her husband, depends on her sexually or for the sake of social status while she , emotionally. However, it appears that Janine is not emotionally satisfied. Therefore, she tends to feel as dreary as the dry desert in an Arabian land. What an overacting moment!

As what I had expected, Albert Camus wanted to indicate his philosophy on Absurdism in the story.

Now, should I subjectively conclude that someone is likely to be adulterous when she is childless and not given much emotional attention by her husband? Well, you have the right to pooh-pooh me. ^^

This is now my third Camus book.  I am still impressed by his   ability   to put his philosophical ideas into a story with his exceptional   writing skills, particularly  by his way of associating them with the mystical world. Much more if I read it in French. I wonder.

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it.)

Endgame by Samuel Beckett: A Book Review

endgame“HAMM: We’re not beginning to… to… mean something?
CLOV: Mean something! You and I, mean something!
(Brief laugh.) Ah that’s a good one!”
Samuel Beckett, Endgame

It is my first book of Samuel Beckett, and I intended to read a thin one in order to get an idea of how remarkable the writer is since I have read a plenty of positive feedback about his writing styles from the literati . Unfortunately, this one is soooo confusing to make out. I cannot get at the sequence of the story- the characters just seem to talk incessantly. There are apparently two characters who seem to talk to one another philosophically; then, another characters appear out of nowhere making a la cameo appearances. I said to myself , “ What’s going on in here? “ (laughs) Still, I kept on going. But when I looked it up in Wikipedia, I found out the real concept of the play: I was impressed. I have never seen nor read such kind of play that two characters have conversation next to their own habitats- dustbins. What an out-of-this world scene!

The play has just four characters: Hamm , unable to stand and blind; Clov , servant of Hamm; unable to sit; Nagg , Hamm’s father; has no legs and lives in a dustbin; and Nell , Hamm’s mother; has no legs and lives in a dustbin next to Nagg.

In the end, I am still boggled at the philosophical discourse among the characters- a challenge I might get through in an attempt to read his other books, particularly his trilogies.

“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that… Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more.”
Samuel Beckett, Endgame

Samuel Beckett’s Endgame at the Dutchess Theatre in 2009 ( Photo:ALASTAIR MUIR)

If I watch its stage play, I will enjoy it more.^_^

Rating: 2/ 5 stars ( It’s ok. )

A Hanging by George Orwell: A Book Review

a-hanging-george-orwell-nThis is a perfect combination with Shooting an Elephant ( by the same author ) in one book . The feelings both convey in the sentences could bring about nuclear fission. (laughs) I would , for sure, give it 5 stars .

Just the kidding aside. This is a perfect essay for the perpetual global issue now : imposing capital punishments on prisoners or captives. One of the punishments that has still been being  practiced is hanging. Recently, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) was reported to have hanged few Egyptian Christians in light of their ideologies. In fact, it is sad to say that not only  does  such group embrace this kind of blood-curdling punishment , but also 58 countries still do. Twenty three of these countries have executed 527 people. To put it bluntly, most of the countries that still embrace death penalty are  China, the United States, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Yemen, Indonesia, and Iraq.*They uphold death penalty laws for some reasons. On the contrary, whatever argumentative reasons these countries have, in my humble opinion, I am absolutely against DEATH PENALTY, not that it is unconstitutional in our country, not that our country is a religious country, not that we are crime-free. In effect, we have floats of crocodiles in kind unless we were still living in a dark era when people were still intellectually and morally immature to kill one another, weren’t we? If we are in reality at the present time, DEATH PENALTY is applicable when we are all in danger to get annihilated. Tsk tsk tsk Orwell was right: There is such an evil.

Upon reading this essay, there are lines that dwelt upon me:

“It is curious, but till that moment I had never realised what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we are alive. All the organs of his body were working – bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming – all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned – even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone – one mind less, one world less.”

Gee, this part makes my flesh creep! A message coming from the other planet.

This essay sounds journalistic “in a sense “ ( now infected by Orwell’s favorite word in his essays ) that Orwell had witnessed different kinds of state wars. His description about the prisoners, the miserably sordid camp, the hanging place, the dog, the atmosphere- they are one in a picture in my mind.

As I reviewed his essay Shooting an Elephant ( 4 stars ), Orwell’s writing styles are sooo impressive. I really liked it despite its ending is ridiculous. I am now getting more familiar with his trademark.

*http://www.criminaljusticedegreesguid…

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )